Chef honors traditional fare


Tessa Morhardt / Clarion

Chef Michael Twitty visists with host Kyle Cherek during the Chef Series event on Oct. 23.

Tessa Morhardt, Editor in Chief

Chef Michael Twitty appeared on Madison College’s Chef Series on Oct. 23. A Jewish African American who was raised in the south, he was taught to cook by his parents and grandmother. In addition to being a master chef, Twitty is a culinary historian, educator, and author.

Twitty wanted to show and teach people the culture of Africa through his food. His work is through two different sources: the Antebellum Chef and the Kosher/Soul. His goal was to revive the old traditions of African American food, honoring his ancestors while giving hope to people of color who are looking to better their lives in this new economy.

The real goal for Twitty was to connect the history of food and family from Africa to America – slavery to freedom.

Twitty had learned how to cook through the old ways, cooking on rocks, with sticks and branches, cast iron, etc. The food had become so real because “the fire was real” and “cooking with cast iron is seen as far beyond rustic.”

During the series discusison, Twitty explained that  when he  first stepped into a modern kitchen, everything was very foreign and he knew he stood out from the crowd.

“I didn’t know how to use a can opener,” he said.  But being in the kitchen and not knowing anything, he had received much support and help from those around him.

Being in a modern kitchen had been a switch because all the flavorings had become different and all the techniques weren’t familiar. All of the recipes he had used from his techniques with stone, fire and wood couldn’t be translated because there wasn’t certain flavorings that would have been added using the fire, such as the wood smoke.

Among the things Twitty learned while working in a modern kitchen is that “at the end of the day it’s us (family).” What really brings all the food together and how the experience happens is through the people you work with.

He also learned that “you find a lot of expectations that people bring to your food.”

He had explained that they expect you to cook it a certain way and they expect it to taste that way as well. Because of today’s era and all of the new technology, people expect perfection instead of having an open mind to new (old in this case) ideas.

Cooking has taught Twitty that mistakes are good because they teach us the right way to go. Along with that, you won’t always create the same cuisine while trying to explain it to someone while also reinventing it. Twitty explains that part of cooking is improvisation, and things won’t always be the same as the day before.

“What you feel or what your inspire by is what you are going to put into the pot while cooking,” he said.

Twitty has written a book, “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South.” He also has a blog that explains his culinary journey through cultural issues.

His book can be purchased at Barnes and Nobles (paperback $16.99) or Amazon (paperback $15.29). His blog is located on